The November 3rd election is 52 days away and county officials are already busy preparing for what is expected to be a day like never before.
With increased COVID-19 concerns, election officials are expecting a record number of mail-in ballots in Walker County.
Julie Cooper, the elections manager for Walker County, said as of Thursday, the office has processed over 1,400 applications to vote by mail.
In the November 2016 election, just over 1,000 mail-in ballots were requested by Walker County voters. Those numbers went up a bit in 2018, with 1,325 mail-in ballots requested.
So far this year (for the 2020 Presidential Election) we have already processed 1,400 requests and expect that number to increase rapidly over the upcoming week,” Cooper said.
Forty-three states and the District of Columbia allow their citizens to vote by mail without restriction. In Texas, you need to fit in a category: over 65 years of age, traveling, incarcerated or have a disability. The Texas Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that COVID-19 can not be considered as the sole decision for voting absentee.
Mail-in voting has become a topic for debate between Republicans and Democrats, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton calling the voting method “vulnerable to fraud.”
Those who want to vote by mail must submit an application by Oct. 23.
However, with the threat of COVID-19 still looming, election officials are moving forward with steps to allow social distancing throughout early voting and Election Day. Recently, the county was approved for participation in the countywide polling place program, which will allow any registered Walker County voter to cast a vote at 11 separate polling places on Nov. 3.
“The transition into this program is big for the future of voting in our county,” Cooper added.
Early voting has also been moved to the Walker County Storm Shelter. For the first time ever, Walker County has been given the opportunity to put into action a plan which will allow for 45 voting stations, 10 voter check-ins, and three dedicated full-time curbside clerks, all while still maintaining safe social distancing among voters during the three-week early voting period.
“The decision to move early voting to the Walker County Storm Shelter was not an easy one, but one for the betterment of our voters and community,” Cooper said. “With the move, we’ve been able to take the challenges of COVID-19 and turn it into something grand.”
To vote in the Nov. 3 election, Walker County residents must register by Oct. 5.